March 27, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Traditional scallop stew showcases once-bountiful beauties

There's been some talk of shutting scallop fishing season down earlier than usual this year due to the danger of overfishing, but hopefully you have taken the precaution of freezing some of our local beauties.

Scallops freeze better than almost any other seafood, especially if put into a plastic container and covered with whole milk, which helps prevent freezer burn. 

On big scallops, the side hinge should be removed because it's chewier than the rest of the scallop muscle. Sometimes called the "sweetmeats," these morsels can be marinated in vinegar and eaten with toothpicks as a delicious snack. 

PENOBSCOT BAY SCALLOP STEW

Servings: Four as a main course

A very traditional scallop stew is white-on-white and completely unadorned, tasting of nothing more than its essential ingredients -- fresh sweet scallops and pure creamery milk or cream and butter. Here's a slight variation, treated to a contemporary "face-lift," but with its beautiful (and delicious) soul intact. Serve the stew with this chopped kale salad with almonds and grape tomatoes and some focaccia that has been warmed and crisped in the oven. 

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups bottled clam juice or seafood stock

1 small onion, quartered

1 branch of leafy celery top

4 parsley sprigs, including stems

1 teaspoon salt

1 large bay leaf, broken in half

¼ cup finely chopped celery

1½ to 1¾ pounds scallops

2 tablespoons snipped chives or green parts of scallions

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or 1 teaspoon dried

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

5 tablespoons butter

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, combine the half-and-half, onion, celery top, parsley, salt and bay leaf. Heat over medium-low heat just until bubbles form around the edges; remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 15 minutes to infuse with the flavor of the seasoning vegetables. Strain out the vegetables and discard, returning flavored cream to the saucepan.

Add chopped celery to the cream mixture and simmer, covered, over low heat until it softens slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove side hinges from scallops. If scallops are large, cut into halves or quarters.

Add the scallops, chives, tarragon, marjoram and cayenne to the cream mixture. Simmer gently, uncovered, until the scallops are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, stirring until it melts. Season with freshly ground pepper and adjust other seasonings to taste. (Stew improves in favor if made a day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat very gently.)

Ladle the stew into shallow soup bowls to serve.  

CHOPPED KALE SALAD WITH ALMONDS AND GRAPE TOMATOES 

Use the tender baby kale that is now being sold with the other packaged lettuces or buy a bunch of kale and cut it into fine slivers.

Servings: Four

½ cup sliced almonds

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon salt

6 cups (about 5 ounces) thinly sliced kale leaves

1 cup halved grape tomatoes

½ cup half-moon slices of red onion

½ cup shredded Parmesan or mixed Italian cheese 

Toast the almonds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring now and then, until one shade darker, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey and salt.

Combine kale, tomatoes and onion in a salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss gently. Add cheese and toss again. Sprinkle with toasted almonds before serving.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Lobster!" (Storey, 2012). She can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny

 

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